Interview with John Watts of Gypsy Knight Games
I met John Watts virtually a few years ago when he expressed interest in attending a con I was involved with and running some games there. He introduced me to his new company, Gypsy Knight Games, and since then he has produced a ton of stuff for the Mongoose Traveller RPG line that has really impressed me. I thought our readers would be interested in learning about this new company and the brains behind it.
Hello John. Welcome to The Gamer’s Codex. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.
Thanks for asking me.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
Well, my name is John Watts and I’m the president of Gypsy Knights Games. I started Gypsy Knights Games in 2011 and we currently create supplements in support of Mongoose’s version of Traveller. I’m married to my wonderful wife Wendy and we live with two cats (Felix and Moneypenny).
How did Gypsy Knights Games form?
It really formed out of the idea that, over the years, we had created a wealth of material that was sitting in our respective homes gathering dust. Tons of notebooks filled with ideas for worlds, ships, adventures and characters. We had always talked about trying to get some of it published and we finally decided to take the plunge.
In one of your “About Us” sections, I read that you guys were a gaming club first. Tell us a little more about that.
Yes, that’s right. The group first formed over a Traveller game I ran at a hobby store in Chattanooga, TN called “The Royal Tiger” in the early 90s. It was built around the crew of the merchant ship “Gypsy Rose.” Over the next few years, as the campaign continued, those characters became the founders of an interstellar polity called “The Gypsy Refuge.”
Those characters were then retired and the campaign became about a group called “The Gypsy Knights.” These characters were tasked by the older characters (who were now NPCs) to go around the worlds in and around The Refuge righting wrongs and so forth.
Over time, the players themselves began to use the name for the group at large. By the mid to late 90s, we were going to SF conventions and calling ourselves “The Gypsy Knights.” So, when it came time to create the company, it seemed only natural to use that name.
What are you most proud of since you started Gypsy Knight Games?
I’m proud of all of our products. I think each product has gotten better than the last as we’ve gotten more and more experience under our belt. Our most recent offering, Clement Sector, is our core setting book and we’re very proud of it.
When did you start playing Traveller?
1986. I had been running Star Frontiers and James Bond 007 (which I still love!) before that.
What first attracted you to Traveller over other similar games?
It seems funny to say it but the truth is that Traveller had a lot of books out there. I was 16 years old and it seemed to me that people I knew who were playing Dungeons and Dragons always had a new book to read. Star Frontiers hadn’t had that kind of support and, when we wanted to get back into space opera from James Bond 007, it seemed important at the time.
Once we began to play, we had the “Official Traveller Universe” in which to play, but we could also create our own worlds and our own setting. In the early days, we mixed a lot of Star Wars, Star Trek, Heinlein and Niven into our Traveller universe. As time went on, we left the official background behind and began to work on our own setting. It was that kind of versatility that kept us using Traveller.
And the rules are quite simple to learn and to teach new players. Whereas some of the other games out there can be a bit daunting for new players to learn, Traveller is fairly easy to pick up. That fact allowed us to gain more and more players over the years.
What is in store for Gypsy Knights in the near future?
As I said earlier, we’ve just rolled out our core setting book. It ties together all of our subsector sourcebooks, colony books, and adventures into one unified setting. We intend to continue to support that setting with supplements to flesh out the worlds with more detail and with more adventures and campaigns. While we will be targeting these books to be used with our Clement Sector setting, we feel that a referee will be able to use them with any setting or version of Traveller.
We are partnered with Chronicle City and that partnership will have one of our books, 42 Plots, in game stores near you soon. We’re hoping to do the same with Clement Sector later in the year.
In addition, we’ve expanded into two other online shops: d20pfsrd.com and Paizo’s webstore. Between those two shops, Chronicle City and Drive-Thru RPG, we hope to give folks lots of options as to where to found our products.
What are your thoughts on Traveller5? Are you supporting it?
My personal copy hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m told it’s going to be an interesting read. It looks to be a return to the T4 system which, while it had some flaws, I liked.
As of right now, we’re sticking with the Mongoose version for our books.
After going through several of your products and seeing the plethora of products you have, I have to ask … how do you keep it fresh? Where are all these new ideas coming from? Years and years of gaming?
That is the answer. Just speaking for myself, I have notebooks filled with gaming material in my office and in my basement. My wife has told people that she has manipulated me into starting the company for no other reason than to get my notebooks organized. There may be an element of truth in that.
Are there other games that Gypsy Knights wants to write for?
We are exploring ideas for Pathfinder and that may be something you see by next year. We have a basic outline of where we want to go with those products, but so far it is only an outline.
I love superheroes. So it is probably a safe bet that you’ll see something for one of the superhero lines at some point as well.
I also have a boardgame that is in my brain and really wants to see the light of day. So that’s a possibility as well.
What other games do you play, if any?
I don’t get to play nearly as much as I would like. Currently, I have a friend, Alan Mullican, who runs a second edition D&D game at my house on Saturday nights twice a month. It’s been a lot of fun revisiting some of the old modules. Oddly enough, after all these years of gaming, I never really played a lot of D&D. I was either running Traveller or James Bond 007 or playing in someone’s Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Champions, or Deadlands campaign. So while most gamers played the classic D&D modules years ago, I’m currently on a trip of discovery with them.
I’ve had a real itch to run a superhero game as well. If I ever get time for it, I’m going to try to do a Mutants and Masterminds game. I’ve also been known to dust off the James Bond 007 game and run a one-shot adventure of that on occasion.
If there is a TV show that most influences you in your gaming, what is it? Why?
A current TV show? Not so much. When Firefly came out, though, we always felt like it had a very similar feel to our Traveller game.
Over the years, I’ve been inspired by a number of shows. In particular, Blake’s 7 always had a strong influence on our Traveller game. I still love that show despite the horrible special effects.
Thanks again for taking the time out to talk with us. Good luck and good gaming!
Thanks for asking me. Hopefully, I’ll see you at a convention again soon!